Tuesday, 28 August 2018

4 Witness to the Healing at Bethsaida

Based on Mark 8:22-26
The Villager
I don’t know about you but where we live it’s boring, nothing much happens here ever… boring!
Welcome to no where’s ville, here in the middle of nothing – Bethsaida.  There’s the desert dust and then just over that way to the West of us is the Jordan River.  That’s about it.
What happens here you ask.  You look at the desert and you go fishing and then for something different you go fishing and then you look at the desert. You think it’s boring here in this school with all your smart phones and laptops and entertainment and information on tap. You don’t know anything about boring, try fishing and the desert and the dust and the nothing ever happening.
Of course, like everyone else, we are under the Romans but even that is boring.  Everyone is too afraid to do anything about them – I mean they rule everywhere, everyone… everything!  So we keep our heads low and we fish and watch the dusty desert as the days pass by.
It’s so boring, nothing ever happens in Bethsaida… well not until today… today… today we had a visitor.
We had heard about this man, a man travelling the countryside with his ragtag bunch of followers. This man was telling people that God is good and that God is close.  This man named Jesus.  But it wasn’t just that he was teaching – he was doing miracles. 
We had heard he had fed a crowd – a crowd of 5000 people they said.  With just 5 loaves and 2 fish, they said.  I don’t know what sort of charlatan chef this Jesus is, but people said it was a miracle.  And people say it’s fantastic and that only someone connected to God could do anything like this.
So here we are in boring Bethsaida, where nothing ever happens, and Jesus, Jesus turns up.  Anyway old Fred who lives just down the way, old Fred who’s blind as a bat, his friends go and get him.  They get him and they take him to Jesus.
Nothing ever happens here, I’m telling you it’s so boring. 
But this day they take old Fred out to the edge of the town.  They take him out because they’ve heard that Jesus is coming.  And we followed them.  This is the most exciting thing to happen here since the Romans showed up a few decades back.  We wanted to see what was going on.
And we get out to where Jesus was just in time to see the most disgusting thing.  Jesus spat on his eyes, how gross is that.  Then he put his hands on old Fred’s eyes and he seemed to rub his eyes a bit before taking them away. The Jesus asked, ‘can ya see?’
Old Fred’s eyes still seemed a bit misty as he look around and he said ‘nuh, nope, not really… I mean I think I can people but they like a bunch of walking trees.’
A bunch of walking trees?  That’s what he said, that’s what called us.
And so Jesus put his hands on Fred’s eyes again and took them away.  Nothing ever happens here, I’m telling you that this place is so boring, but this day, this day Fred could see.
I saw it with my own eyes… it was a miracle.
I mean I did wonder for a moment whether old Fred had been tricking all these years.  I mean think about it one moment blind, the next not.  I mean that’s the stuff of the old prophets.
I don’t know who this Jesus bloke really is.  But I can tell you no one could do what he did without a direct line to upstairs… to the one who made us and everything… you know to the Lord… to Adonai
The Friend
Ok, I admit it. I was the one.  I took old Fred to see Jesus.  Well we did.  But, it was my idea.
I want you to think about this for a moment.  Have you ever known any of your friends to be in trouble or to have a problem?  Maybe they were feeling stressed about an assignment.  Maybe they had fallen out with another friend.  Maybe they were sick.  Maybe it was something serious… maybe like Old Fred, they were blind.
Being blind is pretty serious you know, well I think it is.  I had been helping Fred out for years. We all had.  And Fred seemed happy enough… but, well, you know… it was hard for us as well.
Anyway, we had heard that this Jesus guy was coming our way.  We had heard he could do anything.  So what do you do?  What would you do? You’ve got a mate who’s in trouble, you see an opportunity to help him out – what do you?
Do you sit back and do nothin’? Do you not care? Do you not engage? Do you not show any character?
Well that’s not me.  So I got my friends and we formed a team went to get Fred and we helped him to head out and see Jesus.  It was great teamwork.
And we got out to Jesus and we said to Jesus, ‘This is our mate Fred, his blind… What can you do?’
Now as soon as his saw Fred Jesus just went about his business.  He spat on his eyes and rubbed them with his hands, you know I’m talking about.  You’ve heard the rumours.
And old Fred was healed.  Now I don’t know but I think Fred was happy, he was really happy.  He seemed to really appreciate what had happened.
That was all that we had wanted for Fred to be able to see – and he could.  A miracle for sure.
But then again since then I’ve been wondering what does this all mean for me? I mean Jesus healed a blind bloke. 
So who is Jesus for me? What difference will it make to who I am?  I went there expecting to happen, hoping for it to happen, but when it actually happened… what does that mean for me?  What will it mean for you?
I don’t know about but if you’ve got a friend whose got some sort of problem.  Well you can sit back and do nothing… Or you can show a bit of character and engage with them, show them you care.  If you can’t do it alone get some friends to help out, show a bit of teamwork, and see what you can do, ask yourself who can help us.
That’s all we did.  We trusted that Jesus could help out, and he did.  It leaves you wondering doesn’t it, who is this Jesus, and what is God really like?  It has change my view of the world for sure.
The Disciple Peter
You should know who I am.
I am Peter, Simon Peter, the fisherman. And I follow Jesus.
I don’t just follow him I am one of the twelve, one of the disciples, one of the inner circle.
One of the in crowd… we’re like this (crossed fingers) with Jesus…
But I got to admit we might be like this but sometimes we just don’t get it…
Been with him a few years now.  It was back then I was there on the beach minding my own business when Jesus comes along and says the weirdest thing, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
I had no idea what he was talking about.  I thought the man was bonkers – kangaroo loose in the top paddock.
But… at the same time… there was something about the way that he asked it that was irresistible.  There was something in the way he looked at me, so I just up and left my nets, right there and then.
And I said “Ok, let’s do this” and he said “I’ll make you fish for people.”
And ever since then I’ve been seeing things and hearing things that you simply would not believe.
He keeps saying to us things about who he is.  Just today, I saw him heal a blind man.  That’s real Torah stuff, that’s Moses and Aaron stuff, and Ezekiel and Isaiah stuff.  The stuff of the miracles and the old ways and the old legends! It’s that stuff becoming real again.
And it’s got me thinking. It’s got me thinking. Maybe, Jesus is more than I think he is.  More than just a teacher, more than a friend, more even than a healer and a miracle maker! Maybe more than all those things put together…
Maybe, just maybe… this guy, this guy who can heal blind men is the Messiah!

The Healed Blind Man
No one really asked me whether I wanted to see again.  My friends just took me to Jesus, they took me to Jesus just outside Bethsaida.  They took me to Jesus because they had heard that he could do amazing things… miracles.
And so Jesus spat on my eyes and put his hands on my eyes and asked, ‘Can ya see?’
But I couldn’t, not properly.  I can remember what it was like to see. Sure I could see shapes and people all blurry and all out of focus walking around like lumbering trees.
So I told Jesus, “I can see people but they like funny, like trees walking.”  I didn’t understand what was happening.
But I felt his hands reach out and cover my eyes again and then he took them away and everything was clear again. I can see clearly now…
You don’t really appreciate what you have until it’s gone but, crikey, when you get something back you sit up and take notice.
I could see my friends, they seemed to look so much older… different… but they were there and they looked so fine and beautiful…
I could see the pristine snow white clouds hanging against the bright blue sky and the town, my town, Bethsaida set off to the distance in the desert and dust, with the Jordan snaking its way off to the south in the background.  It was stunning, the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
It was truly a miracle, I knew it was going to change my life.  So there I was just starring at everything, letting my eyes drink it all in when Jesus caught my attention.
He looked at me intently, with dark piercing eyes.  Full of wisdom, dripping with love and he said to me the strangest thing. 
“Go to your home.  Don’t even go to the village.  Just go to your home.”
It was as though he wanted to hide me away, hide the evidence of his miracle. 
I just wanted to go and share my news, to tell everyone, “Hey world, Jesus has made me well.  I once was blind but now I see!”
But he said go home. I think my friends were just as surprised, I think they expected more too.
So here I am.  Here in my dim home… not much to see inside here.  And I’m left wondering ‘what comes next?’
Encountering Jesus has changed my life.  I don’t know how it has changed my life yet, but it has changed my life.  I’m not sure what it means.  I don’t know who he was.  I just know that he did this thing for me that I don’t quite understand.
How will I live my life now that I can see again?  How can I say thank you? What does it all mean?

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Love one another

It seems simple enough, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you, abide in my love... love one another as I have loved you.”   

Seems simple enough to love one another, but what do we think love is.  When I shared about singing a new song one of the things that can become evident very quickly is how we have different tastes and preferences in our music choices.  Churches have split apart on what kind of music they should play.

Just as there is a great diversity of ideas on music so too when it comes to loving one another we have different ideas on what it means to love each other and how we define love seems to change through time.

So to love one another appears simple enough but love is complex in its simplicity.

If you will indulge me I would like to share a short video entitled “What is love?” from one of my favourite websites Soulpancake.


So what does love mean to you.  What does it mean for us to love one another?

Right at the beginning of the video a young boy says that “Love is a complicated thing” and I would agree with that.  And maybe you picked up on some of its complexity in listening to all the different answers.

So when it comes to Jesus commandment to love one another as I have loved you we already have our own ideas and biases about what love is.  I want to pick up on what one of the women in the video said in her answer.

“It is something you do on a day to day basis. Love is active.”

Now many of you would have heard that the word we translate into love from Greek has 4 different forms.  The ancient Greek language had 4 different ways of categorising love.

The word being used in this passage is the word agape.  This is generally understood to mean unconditional love – love that does not expect anything in return.  But I want us to push a little deeper into that idea.

How does God love us?  By sending Jesus into the world.  By Jesus proclaiming the good news of God’s love to us.  By Jesus dying for us.  By Jesus rising for us. By Jesus ascending for us to pray for us forever.  God loves us by doing something.

Love is not a feeling or an emotion love is what God does.  Or as John put in his letter “God is love.”  Love is what God does – so if we are to love one another it cannot stop at an emotion, an interior feeling or thought that I keep to myself.  No, love involves us acting, doing something.

Now in loving like God loves us we cannot make the same sacrifice that Jesus makes on the cross for us – that was a once and for all moment.  But we can act in love towards one another as a sign of this love.

Quite a few years ago a friend recommended a book to me that some of you may have also read.  It was written by a guy called Gary Chapman and was called The Five Languages of Love.  Have any of you read this book?

In the book Chapman outlines these 5 ways we express our love in action and as we think about loving one another in all its simple complexity these 5 ideas can be helpful.  Words of affirmation. Gifts. Physical touch.  Quality time. Acts of service.  I want to go through each of these and give some examples, or maybe more accurately some homework to you because as you listen to them I want you to be thinking about how you might express love to someone this week.

Words of Affirmation

  • Write a letter or card to someone to express your thanks or congratulations.
  • Ring an old friend and reminisce together
  • Be grateful to someone who serves you in a shop 

  • Take your gift of flowers from the church today to someone special
  • Give an extra gift of money to a charity
  • Make a gift or card for a member of your family

 Physical touch

  • Remember to hug a member of your family every day!
  • Embrace a friend when you meet them this week
  • Hold the hand of someone you love more often

 Quality time

  • Put a person you love in your diary this week, listen to them and enjoy their company
  • Take some extra time with God: express gratitude and pray for others
  • Have a technology ‘fast’ and spend more face to face time with friends

 Acts of service

  • Take on an extra chore around the house
  • Commit yourself to do something for the church or a charity
  • Ask a family member, friend or even a stranger what you can do to help them out
Now what is very interesting is that what Chapman emphasises is that each one of respond more strongly to a different expression of the giving and receiving of love.  A good example of this is that for some people a hug is important and for us well it is more like an invasion of their personal space.  We are all unique in what our preferred expression of love is and how we interpret loving actions towards us.  This is why I think we miss the mark so often in trying to love one another – because we are complex and unique individuals.

To jump back then into the passage and think about how Jesus loves his disciples.  His actions towards them which include his choice to call them friends, his choice to teacher them, his choice to entrust them to bear fruit on his behalf is all done in the context of knowing that these men are far from perfect people.  Jesus actions of love towards his disciples is not reliant on them getting everything right or understanding it but on the choice Jesus makes to go on loving them.

For me this is the hardest aspect of love.  To love another person whom we may find difficult to get along with.  To love another person who is not loving us back or not acknowledging our acts of love towards them.  To love others when are not feeling loved ourselves.
For me this is where God steps into the gap between our call to love one another and our ability to love another.  There are days I do not feel loved and also days I do not feel very loving – more often than not these days coincide!

It is in these moments that God’s ultimate action of love in Jesus’ death and resurrection transcends who we are not able to be for ourselves and joins us through God’s grace to Jesus’ very life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today we will celebrate that in remembering the great act of God’ love as we take bread and wine and receive again through word and action the presence of God into our life.  We share in communion in the faith and hope that as we act so to God will act within us.

So, we return to where we began: It seems simple enough, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you, abide in my love... love one another as I have loved you.” 

Today, we will share in that love of God in bread and wine.  God’s grace.  The fruit that we are given to share from our encounter God this day is to go from this table to act as loving people: through Words of affirmation. Gifts. Physical touch.  Quality time. Or, acts of service. 

Take a few moments of silence.  Consider what is God saying to you this day?  Who are you being called to love and what will you do about it?